Parking Lot Scams

When parking your car at a lot or garage, be wary of the parking attendant asking you for money because they may not really work there and your car could be towed away.

Parking your car can be an expensive affair. They get you when parking near the stadium for a ball game, in garages when you go shopping or in pay lots near your favorite restaurant. Depending on how long you plan on parking and the scarcity of available stalls, the amount you pay can be significant. This has presented scamartists with a unique opportunity.

Consumers have reported paying parking lot attendants only to discover their car’s been towed when they return. How could this happen? You paid for parking didn’t you? Or did you?

Take the Money and Run

Crooks used to target parking lot cash boxes but nowadays lots are more secure and take credit cards. This has led the scammers to target the customers. The scam is very simple. All you need to do is convince parking lot customers to give you their money rather than using the lot or garage’s automated payment system or pay box. The scammers are very slick and the reasons they give you for paying them often sound quite reasonable. One scam involves selling customers all-day passes at a discount. Another ploy is walking up to customers and informing them the pay box is out of order but they can accept payments on behalf of the lot.

Check your receipt

Police report that some scammers even give receipts but they’re often from another lot, one that allows multiple purchases with one card. The purchases are often made with stolen credit cards and they buy as many passes as the system, or stolen card, will allow. If you do get a receipt, look it over to make sure it’s not expired or from another lot.

The double whammy

If you fall for this scam, you’ll lose out twice. Once when you pay the scammer, and again when you return to discover the boot on your car that will only be removed after you pay a hefty fine. It might sound unfair, but the parking lots are being ripped off, too. It’s your job to make sure you pay for parking. If you give the money to someone besides an attendant or pay box, you’re going to end up an unhappy camper. The lot may work with you to resolve the issue, but don’t count on it.

Below are some tips to avoiding parking lot scams:

  • Look for signs – If you see a sign indicating that there’s no parking attendant on duty, be wary of anyone that approaches you claiming to be one. If you see a sign that says not to give money to anyone, don’t.
  • Look for yourself – If someone approaches you and says they pay box is broken or out of order, go look for yourself. Even if it’s really broken, be wary if they ask you for payment. Many lots provide alternative payment methods including paying by cell phone.
  • What are they wearing – Bona fide parking lot attendants wear something with the lot’s logo on it. It could be a jacket or a hat but if in doubt, find another place to park.
  • Get a receipt – This is no guarantee of anything but the moment you ask for a receipt is the moment a crook might loose their cool. Giving a receipt isn’t in an amateur scammer’s playbook. A seasoned pro might have some receipts on hand, but crooks that polished usually go after bigger fish. Once you get a receipt, make sure it’s for the same amount you paid the attendant.
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